A rose-tinted view
Traditional, retro, semi-abstract? Get up close and personal in the Art Loft at House
Buying art is a lot like dating. You can get started online but, at the end of the day, it's no substitute for a face-to-face. Art websites, like dating profiles, don't always give the full picture and buying a decent painting is a big commitment. Make the wrong decision, and you could end up looking at an expensive mistake for a very long time.
That's one of the joys of the Art Loft at House. Where else would you find the work of 40 artists on the same balcony, with the artists on hand, ready and willing to chat about their work? You're not going to like everything in the Art Loft, but that's not the point. There's something for everyone in the audience.
If you're in search of contemporary still -life paintings, Chris Quinlan's are vibrant and not massively expensive. Enamel Jug and Fruit, a framed oil painting (50 x 60cm) costs €600 and it's amazing how much liveliness he gets out of the fairly traditional subject matter. Vincent Devine's surrealist paintings are strong, punchy and far from traditional and Orla Walsh's retro renditions of Tayto crisp bags are vibrant and fun. For the pressed-for-cash, or those wanting something smaller, Walsh sells limited-edition prints as well as original paintings. An unframed print (20 x 26cm) of Four Irish Biscuits costs just €29. And yes, there's a pink wafer in the picture.
Part of the fun of Art Loft is the banter and Walsh is great for a chat. Obviously, she's there to sell work. But anyone who makes art understands that the process of buying it is a personal thing. Sometimes, you need to walk away from a painting to find out you much you really want it. If you're still thinking about it when you wake up in the morning, then it's probably the one for you.
If you like atmospheric paintings, Ruthie Ashenhurst's are very seductive. She describes them as "semi-abstract", but that only gives a hint of how evocative the work is. Her portraits are deliberately blurred and her ghostly landscapes are shrouded in mist, with touches of gold leaf that make you feel that the sun is about to break through the clouds. Her prices range from €695 to €1,550, including the frame.
It may seem obvious, but larger paintings cost more than small ones. Jin Yong's spectacular tiger painting, Hunter, costs €3,650. But then, it measures a metre each way. The engaging Wise Fox (€1,250) is half the size (50 x 50cm) and less than half the price. The most important thing here is not calculate the price by inches but to measure the room. Buying art is a bit like buying clothes. There is absolutely no point in bringing home something that's doesn't fit.
Galleries are the dating agencies of the art world. It's their job to set you up in a lasting relationship with an artwork and, from the Art Loft, you'll see a scattering of galleries in the RDS Main Hall. Gallery Zozimus, a first-time exhibitor at the show, will be bringing a selection of paintings, sculpture, and ceramic art. For the gallery's owner, Vincent Kelly, ceramic sculpture is a passion. But, as he admits, it's an art form that Irish people can struggle to get their heads around. "People still look on ceramic pieces as ornaments," he says. "That's completely wrong! They have the idea that art has to be painting, or maybe a bronze sculpture."
If you're worried about how a painting or sculpture will look away from the gallery, Gallery Zozimus will bring it out to your house so that you can see it in situ before you commit. "It works well for us, most of the time," says Kelly, "although I do remember driving half way across the country with 17 paintings and then driving all the way home again with the same 17 paintings in the back of the car."
The work that he's bringing to House includes spectacular ceramic animal sculptures by the UK duo, Ostinelli & Priest, as well as that of Irish artists: Jane Jermyn, Alan Boyle, Eileen Singleton and Isobel Egan. "I love Isobel's work," he admits. "It's pure porcelain and sometimes people are afraid of that because they think it's delicate. But it's not, really." He's also showing some of Fidelma Massey's fantastical bronzes. "You'd wonder what goes on in her head when she's making them," he says.
Another gallery, Gormley's Fine Art, is coming to House for the third year in a row. They've got works by some of the big international names as well as Irish artists like the dizzying Peter Monaghan whose pieces create an optical illusion. Some, like Radiating Lines (2018) cost as much as €10,000 but others are around €1,750. "Everyone stops when they come to Peter's work," says Rachael Wilhite of Gormley's. "Because they're three dimensional they seem to move when you walk around them." But what would you do with that once you get it home?
"Sometimes bringing in an interior designer can make you a little braver," says Helle Moyna of Nordic Elements. "Not everyone has the vision to imagine an artwork in their own home." For her, the most important thing is to choose a piece of art that's meaningful to you. Moyna has recently finished a design scheme in which she took the clients' art collection as the starting point and designed the furniture around it. "Every picture had a meaning for them! They remembered the stories about how and when they bought them." Her top tip, when styling a room around a piece of art, is to take some of the colours in the piece and echo them around the room. Nordic Elements has plain velvet cushions (from €39) in a great range of colours. If you can choose one of those that picks up one of the colours in the artwork, then your room will start to look like you've done it on purpose.
But, if you need a little help, book yourself into the Interior Design Clinic at House, where a 15-minute session with an accredited interior designer will cost you nothing at all.
See house-event.ie. See also galleryzozimus.ie, gormleys.ie, orlawalsh.com, quinlanart.com, ruthieashenhurst.com, jinyongart.ie, and nordicelements.com